Injuries are a big part of football and therefore play a large role in fantasy leagues. Many fantasy players will opt for safer options come draft time. In this article I take a look at a group of players who are talented but have missed games in recent years in what I am calling the 1st Annual “If They Only Could Stay Healthy” All-Stars. These are players who are capable of winning you a league if they play a full season or close to it. To be clear, when looking at these players I am not recommending trying to draft all of these players, but rather, they are names to keep an eye if they drop come draft night.
To take on the risk associated with these players will depend on play style and roster construction. A team with safe, higher floor guys like Frank Gore and Jarvis Landry will want to look at these riskier players for the potential upside.
QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
There are two major issues when considering Ben Roethlisberger as an option at QB for your fantasy team, he seems to constantly be banged up and he plays a lot worse on the road. The last time Big Ben played 16 games was in 2014. That year he set a career high in pass yards, tied with Drew Brees for the league lead, and tied his career high of 32 touchdowns. That year was the first season for Martavis Bryant, who played 10 games that season and was officially reinstated this off-season. If Big Ben and Martavis Bryant both play 16 games that career high of 32 touchdowns is likely to be broken. If the trouble he has in road games is a concern I would suggest considering him as a trade target around his week 9 bye week. Five of the last eight games for the Steelers are at home and he might be available for a discount at that point in the season.
RB Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49’ers
Most of the news out of San Francisco since the new coach and GM took over has not been positive for Carlos Hyde. However Hyde is still the most talented back on the roster and unless they are determined to play someone else, Hyde should win any camp battle and start the season as the lead back. Over the last two seasons Hyde has missed 12 games with various injuries, but when he is on the field he has been productive, in 13 games last season Hyde scored 9 total touchdowns and had over 1,100 yards from scrimmage. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry on offense that had a weak passing game, their leading wide receiver last season was Jeremy Kerley with 667 yards. The situation still is not a great one, but adding Pierre Garcon gives the 49ers someone worthy of getting over 100 targets at WR and Brian Hoyer represents a steady option at QB, providing an upgrade as a passer over Gabbert and Kaepernick. The situation limits Hyde’s upside, but he can be a high end RB2 and with the reports coming from the 49ers some fantasy players will be hesitant to draft him, which mean he could be drafted at a value as a very strong flex/RB3 option.
RB C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
In 2016 C.J. Anderson played 7 games, in those games he scored 5 total touchdowns and averaged just over 80 total yards a game. This was for a team that did not have a good offensive line and was going through a transition at QB. This off-season the Broncos have made it a point to improve their offensive line through free agency and the draft. Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson were signed and Garett Bolles was drafted in the first round. They still have a competition at QB but their line will be better than last season. Looking at his competition for carries there is Devontae Booker who was disappointing in his rookie season, averaging a half a yard less per carry than Anderson did and was bad enough that the Broncos signed Justin Forsett who was cut by the Ravens earlier in the year to split the work with Booker. They did also sign Jamaal Charles offseason, but there is no certainty he will be ready Week 1. At this point in his career he will be used situationally, if at all. Anderson offers value both rushing and receiving and has flashed RB1 upside previously, if he plays 16 games behind this improved offensive line he could be on the RB1/RB2 border this season.